First Alert Weather In-Depth: The mighty Mississippi is struggling

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – It is probably too much of a good thing for Western New York. We have had multiple days of “off and on rain” that has pushed local rain gauges to higher and higher readings.

But how about a portion of the country that has had the opposite problem. The Mississippi River is by some estimates lower than normal by some 11 or 12 feet and this is the second year in a row with much lower water levels. The U.S. drought monitor shows the extent of the problem with the Upper Mississippi River Valley in a moderate to severe drought and the Lower Mississippi River also in a severe drought. I want to emphasize that this is a very large area that includes the Tennessee River, Ohio River, Missouri River and the Arkansas River. This watershed basin covers 40 percent of the continental United States and ultimately this entire area drains into the Mississippi River.

Obviously, the low water level on the Mississippi is an ongoing problem and has affected many communities along the river. This impact has included drinking water near the city of New Orleans which is due to salt water intrusion from the Gulf of Mexico. There is not enough fresh water flowing down the river to keep the salty water from the Gulf of Mexico at bay. In addition, boat and barge traffic has been slowed or completely stalled because of the extremely low water level.

This will be a long term problem and it will take months and months of rain to bring the height of the water back up to normal levels.